This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol5-6", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
1. Cow Wheat (Melampyrum pratense, L.). 2. Pennyroyal (Mentha Pulegium, L.). 3. Creeping Willow (Salix repens, L.). 4. Great Wood Rush (Luzula sylvatica, Gaud.). 5. Meadow Wood Rush (Luzula campestris, D.C.). 6. Early Sedge (Carex caryophyllea, Latour).
Large bees have to push into the upper part of the corolla to insert the proboscis between the anther-stalks above and touch the hairs. The latter catch the pollen on the way. The bees touch the stigma, and cross-pollination may result. Bees bite the base of the tube to get at the honey. When they do not visit the flowers the anther-stalks become limp, the anthers separate, and the style now bent down is touched with pollen. Ants cause honey to be secreted after the flower fades, contrary to the usual rule.
The capsule when ripe splits open, allowing the 4 seeds to fall out, and to be blown by the wind a short distance, but the plant usually grows in patches. The seeds mimic the chrysalis of the ant in size and colour, having a black spot at the end. The ants disperse the seeds, considering them to be chrysalises.
Melampyrum, Theophrastus, is Greek for black wheat, because it resembles wheat, and the second name refers to its habitat, moist meadows. Black Corn is another name for Cow-wheat.
The seeds when used for bread (as they have been) colour it black. The plant affords good fodder for cattle, and Linnaeus says butter from cows fed on it is very rich and deep yellow. It used formerly to be cultivated in Holland and by the Flemish.
Essential Specific Characters: 243. Melampyrum pratense, L. - Stem erect, branched, leaves lanceolate, paired, flowers yellow, distant, paired, axillary, lower lip of the corolla projecting, corolla four times as long as the calyx.